Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

June 05, 2009 13:27 ET

Government of Canada Introduces Bill to End Early Parole for Murderers

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 5, 2009) - The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, today introduced legislation that would amend the Criminal Code to repeal the "faint hope" clause. This would mean that criminals who commit first- or second-degree murder will no longer be able to apply for early parole.

"Our government believes murderers must serve serious time for the most serious crime," said Minister Nicholson. "By ending 'faint hope' reviews, we are saying 'No' to early parole for murders. We are also sparing families the pain of attending repeated parole eligibility hearings and having to relive these unspeakable losses, over and over again."

Currently, first-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence with no eligibility for parole for 25 years. Second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence with no eligibility for parole for a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 25 years. Under Section 745.6 of the Criminal Code - the "faint hope" clause - offenders sentenced to life imprisonment can apply, at the 15-year mark in their sentence, for an earlier parole eligibility date.

Offenders who commit murder on or after the day this legislation comes into force will not be eligible for early parole under the "faint hope" regime. Those offenders currently serving their life sentence or awaiting sentencing will face tougher rules when they apply for early parole.

Jacques Gourde, MP for Lotbiniere - Chutes-de-la-Chaudiere and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue, took part in Minister Nicholson's announcement.

"This is another example of our Government delivering on its commitment to strengthening Canada's criminal justice system," said Mr. Gourde. "We are continuing to follow through on our tackling crime agenda. We are standing up for victims of crime, and we are putting the rights of law-abiding citizens ahead of the rights of criminals."

An online version of the legislation will be available at www.parl.gc.ca


BACKGROUNDER

Legislation to repeal the "faint hope" clause

(section 745.6) of the Criminal Code

A repeal of the faint hope clause means that offenders who commit murder on or after the day that this proposed legislation comes into force will no longer be eligible to apply for early parole.

- Those who will serve a life sentence for first degree murder will not be eligible to apply to the National Parole Board (NPB) for parole until they have served at least 25 years.

- Those who will serve a life sentence for second degree murder will not be eligible to apply to the NPB for parole until their parole ineligibility period is served, which could be up to 25 years.

The faint hope regime would, however, still apply to those offenders who are currently serving or awaiting sentencing for murder, but the legislation would make it more difficult for those offenders to apply under the faint hope clause by setting the following conditions:

- a judge would have to be satisfied that there is a substantial likelihood that a jury would agree unanimously to reduce the applicant's Parole Eligibility Date;

- after serving at least 15 years of their sentence, an offender would have only three months in which to apply or re-apply to be considered for the faint hope regime;

- if the offender did not apply within the three-month period , he or she would have to wait a minimum of five years before they get another chance to apply; and,

- unsuccessful applicants would have to wait a minimum of five years before they could re-apply. Again, an offender would only have a three-month period to re-apply.

The longer waiting period to re-apply after an initial rejection will bring more peace of mind to victim's loved ones because unsuccessful applicants will be able to apply only two times: once when they become eligible at the 15-year mark of their life sentence, and once more at the 20-year mark. Currently, unsuccessful applicants may apply a total of five times: at the 15-, 17-, 19-, 21- and 23-year marks.

The changes proposed will affect the crime of high treason in the same way as they affect the crime of first-degree murder.

Current legislation

Under the current legislation offenders sentenced to life imprisonment for committing first- or second-degree murder can apply to a Chief Justice or a Superior Court Justice to have their parole eligibility period reviewed by a jury. They can only apply after serving 15 years of their sentence.

Upon application, the offender must first convince a justice they would have a reasonable prospect of success with a jury that must unanimously decide to reduce the number of years of imprisonment the offender must serve without eligibility for parole. The offender must then convince the jury that they should have the right to make an early application for parole to the NPB. Finally, the offender must convince the NPB that they are unlikely to endanger public safety if released.

If parole is granted, the offender remains under supervision for their entire life unless parole is revoked, in which case the person would be returned to prison. Any breach of the offender's parole conditions or a conviction for a new offence may also result in the return of that person to prison.

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Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of Justice
    Darren Eke
    Press Secretary
    613-992-4621
    or
    Department of Justice
    Media Relations
    613-957-4207
    www.canada.justice.gc.ca